When you are taking shots on the go, the world becomes your studio—and that means that your camera bag needs to be ready to accommodate you in the same way that any actual studio could.
While in a studio it is possible to make a few quick adjustments and easily control lighting or leave things still for a moment while you swap lenses or grab a new memory card, but on the go taking that quick break for an equipment swap may not be so simple. This means that having your camera bag organized and strategically prepared is of the utmost importance.
Prior to setting out on your first road shoot you need to set up your camera bag with intention. Consider your plan, know what order you are likely to seek out items and consider where you are going to look for things.
You don’t want to fill your camera bag with too much clutter. Overstuffing your bag with items that you don’t want or need will only result in you becoming frustrated and overwhelmed on the go when you are trying to use your device. The last thing you want to do when out on a road shoot is have the feeling of being Mary Poppins—a little bit of everything under the sun in your bag, but missing the one thing you actually need!
Preparing for your photo-session means deliberately considering what you will need on the go, and then working backwards from that situation.
Here is a list of items that every photographer should have in their camera bag:
1. Memory cards
Start with one or two memory card(s) in your camera’s memory card slot, if your camera has two slots. Then bring 2-3 additional memory cards in your bag. Even if you don’t plan on taking so many photos that could fill a memory card it is always a good idea to have a back-up.
I like to use a smaller sized memory card so I’m essentially forced to quickly unload, back-up and format the cards after the shoot so they’re ready for the next time.
I like using these SanDisk 32GB Memory Cards.
2. Back-up batteries
Always bring a back-up battery. Or even two depending on how long the shoot is. Especially if you have a digital camera. Those things eat through batteries quickly.
This way if your camera’s battery dies you can immediately continue operating. If it’s a long day and you have the space in your bag you can bring your camera’s charging system. This way you can charge your first battery while using the backup.
There are some dependable off-brand batteries but I generally like sticking to the official brand’s battery. Check out this article for more information if interested in off-brand batteries, Should You Buy Off-Brand Camera Batteries?
3. Cleaning supplies
This includes items like blowers, wipes and cleaning spray. These are very important for cleaning lens and keeping dust out. Which in turn helps to keep camera shots sharp.
Always having these little lens wipes has helped me in a bunch of situations. I have one in my main camera bag, one in my grab & go backpack if I’m out and about for the day, as well as a few backups sitting around.
I also keep one of these handy “Lens Pens” in my bag for deeper cleans after shoots.
Tripods are a huge help when you are on the go, as they can help you to have an extra set of hands as you are trying to figure out where you have the best shot. There are plenty of small tripods that you can keep folded up and in your camera bag as you head out on the go.
I have regular tripods but also sometimes I like to carry a GorillaPod Compact Tripod. Which doesn’t go as high as normal tripods. But it can be wrapped on a fence post or tree branch to give you unique shooting positions.
5. Alternate Lenses
You may think that you have it all planned out, but give yourself a bit of wiggle room by having an alternate lens ready to go in your camera bag. This will ensure that you are ready to go incase you suddenly have to switch it up and capture a picture that you weren’t anticipating.
This can also help you create different types of images and be a bit more creative.
6. Plastic Bags or Waterproof Covers
Keeping plastic bags in your camera bag can help protect your gear if the weather doesn’t go your way. Use the bags to keep extra lens, camera bodies, etc dry while in your bag. They can also be fashioned in such a water to cover your camera/lens while shooting. But I’d recommend a better system for that.
7. Hex Tool Or Multi-Tool
These little guys can be life savers if you use a lot of Peak Design’s products or use tripods a lot. If you’re not familiar with Peak Design, they make a bunch of sweet camera gear with a huge focus on straps. A lot of their straps come with these tools to attach or detach the strap, so I make sure to keep those tools with me.
If you need something a little bit more serious or want to have a few sizes available, a multi-tool like this SMALLRIG Folding Tool Set can be useful.
8. Gaffer Tape
Something I always have in my bag but luckily rarely have to use is gaffer tape. It’s typically used on production sets to hold wires together, label stuff, keep curtains closed to control outside light and whatever else tape is needed. Huge benefit to using gaffer tape vs regular tape is that it doesn’t leave a residue once removed.
It’s helped me out enough in those rare instances, that’ll I’ll always keep some with me. I normally just have some wrapped around a pen and keep the big roll at home, refilling as needed.
Gaffer tape is currently holding together a broken focus ring on an old zoom lens I still enjoy shooting with. It’s also keeping rubber grip attached to one of my Nikon D750’s and giving it a sweet look.
9. Pen & Business Cards
Something so simple but also super important. Pens come in handy for obvious reasons but also as previously mentioned, I wrap gaffer tape around mine so I don’t have to bring the whole roll with me.
You can also write additional information on your business cards as you hand them out to new potential clients.
The world is a big place, and there are plenty of ways to make it all your own through your own creative lens. Packing your camera bag before you head out will help you make sure that you aren’t caught off guard unprepared before you start to shoot. Follow this quick and simple guide to make sure that you have the basics of what every photographer should have in their bag.